Stuck in Sereolipi
Our car was parked under a tree in a rhino sanctuary, grounded and unable to move, 50km away. We were running out of cash and the nearest ATM was 100km away. The sun was unbearably hot and shade was scarce.The Safaricom network was very patchy so we couldn’t easily make or receive calls. We were stuck in Sereolipi.
We’d taken Silvester to a land where Landcruisers and rhinos roamed and had suffered the consequences. A torn sump meant all the transmission oil had involuntarily been drained and we couldn’t drive out of Sera Conservancy and back to Nairobi as expected. As the sun set over the northern rangelands, we were lucky to get a ride in the back of a landcruiser to the nearest town – Sereolipi.
Sebastian was booked for a shoot in Nairobi the following morning. With no public means heading out of town by the time we got to there, he waited at a Police check in the hope of hitching a ride to Isiolo, Nanyuki or, if lucky, Nairobi. After several hours of no one willing to offer him a ride, the driver of a Canter headed to Nanyuki allowed him to ride shotgun. They left Sereolipi at around 2am.
Mumbi, Peter and I checked into what would be home for the next three days.
Nestled between indigenous acacias in a land unspoilt by time, Al-Hamdhu Lodge offers a quaint getaway for anyone visiting northern Kenya. It’s 8 rooms are exquisitely furnished with a bed and chair. Toilet paper and single-use Imperial Leather soap are sure to make your use of the facilities more manageable. Just make sure you fetch enough water from the metal drum you’ll find outside under a young acacia using the bucket provided before the water runs out. To keep you warm, the mabati roof is designed to ensure nights are as hot as days. All these for the discounted price of Kshs400/- ($4) a night.
The following morning, we set out to look for breakfast and this is where we found it.
Nyokabi runs this joint with tea served with a rumour of milk and a sack of sugar in each cup. ‘That’s how they like it here” she told us. We used it to down mandazis. We’d had the same meal for dinner the previous night.
The management of Sera and Lewa Conservancies were very helpful in helping us find a mechanic who would help us fix Silvester. They also sent one of the Sera rangers on a motorbike to help ferry the mechanic from Sereolipi to the grounded Silvester.
Ndung’u the mechanic left Isiolo in a matatu headed for Marsabit and alighted at Sereolipi a few minutes to noon. Toolbox in hand, he jumped on the back of the Sera motorbike and took the one-hour plus ride into Sera to fix Silvester.
We in the meantime found a shade, sat, and waited.
After downing all the water we could to dilute the sugar we’d had for breakfast, we started looking for a source of meat we could sink our teeth in for lunch. We found a butchery, a couple of hundred metres outside town. They usually don’t prepare the meat they sell but were willing to do so for us. And since they didn’t have seating, the lady who runs the butchery allowed us into her living room where she had our hands washed before serving us our sumptuous lunch. Talk about customer service!
After speaking to Ndung’u on phone about the state of Silvester’s repairs, it became clear that the fix would take more than a day.
So Mumbi decided to abandon us.
She got into the first ProBox leaving town for Isiolo, about 100kms away, and never looked back, leaving Peter and I to deal with the 30-plus degree heat and the uncertainty of when we’d also depart Sereolipi.
Ndung’u the mechanic got back to Sereolipi at around 5pm, sump in hand and dusty from head to toe. He planned to head back to Isiolo that evening and have it repaired first thing the following morning.
And there was evening, and there was morning – the second day.
Ndung’u got back to Sereolipi at around 12pm with the fixed sump in one hand, and transmission oil in the other. On the back of the Sera motorbike he was and off to finish his mission.
Peter and I took the time to tour Sereolipi.
Not that there’s much of town to tour.
We saw donkeys parked under trees.
And boda bodas too!
If it wasn’t for the bumps on the highway that passes through town, you’d easily pass Sereolipi when driving on the A2.
However, it’s not everyday you have a spear-wielding moran standing next to you in the shade.
Or see a 504 and Samburu warriors next to a line of colourful shops in one picture.
Speaking of shops, Bongo’s is the most happening place in Sereolipi. His is the only source of ice-cold sodas and water. It is also the local bank, giving residents remote access to their funds with mobile money and agency banking services. The cows come here for the shade.
When hunger struck, Peter and I returned to our meat source only to find they’d run out. So we crossed the highway and went to another butchery that had plenty. We asked the lady manning if she could also prepare the meat for us. She categorically refused, and told us we’d have to wait for her boss to return from wherever he’d gone to okay it. This was despite us being ready to pay for the service.
So we bought the meat from her, crossed the highway and went back to the lady who had prepared meat for us the previous day, paid her to repeat the favour, and waited for it to get ready.
At around 4.30pm, the familiar grunt of a boxer engine driving into town livened our spirits.
Silvester was back!
We left Sereolipi with the intention of getting to Nairobi. However, the heat had sapped our energy so we decided to sleep in Isiolo and got back to Nairobi the following day.
What started off as a 4-day trip in The Big North had ended up being a 7-day adventure. We were happy to be back in Nairobi but immediately started wondering when we’d get the chance to be back in northern Kenya.
Next destination : Moyale!